When Karim Rashid first arrived at Carleton University in 1978 at just 17 years old, he was confused and uncertain about his educational and professional direction. He was torn between architecture, fine art and fashion. He applied late to the architecture program and found that it was full, but the architectural stream of Industrial Design was still open. Karim quickly discovered that Industrial Design embodied exactly what he wanted to do.
“I assumed that one had to be an architect to design a chair, coffee machine or product,” said Karim. “I loved the Italian product design landscape and all of the products that I grew up with were designed by architects.”
As part of the Industrial Design program, Carleton emphasized a diverse range of classes including sociology, marketing, engineering, architecture, semantics, history, iconoclasm and philosophy. After years of teaching, Karim believes that new designers need this kind of broad experience and background.
“The Carleton Industrial Design program was challenging due to its breadth,” said Karim. “At times it was frustrating because I just wanted to draw and design, but looking back on it, I learned that design is not about a form or shape. It is a cultural critique, a cultural shaper and a faction of social, political and economic life. Design is a lifetime of experience, so the more experiences one can accumulate, the better. Diligence and perseverance are a necessity.”
With his list of successes and achievements always growing, Karim identifies both talent and hard work as key ingredients for success. Most recently, Karim has leveraged his education and experiences at Carleton to create a new line of furniture named “The Ottawa,” part of his successful BoConcept line.
“The Ottawa collection embodies a similar reductive sensibility to the work I developed at Carleton,” said Karim. “The poetic minimalism, the lightness, soft and ethereal qualities. Objects should really imbue meaning and character, yet should not be obstacles in everyday life. The accessories collection is a sort of retrospective of my work from the beginning to now. I’ve included sketches from my university years when I used to cover entire pages in continual forms. At Carleton, in 1979, we were studying programming languages which got me interested in the digital age as an inspiration for all my body of work.”
Karim has been working at his practice in New York for more than 20 years and has recently remarried. Two years ago, he also opened an office in Amsterdam and he has an office in Serbia that is run by his mother-in-law. Karim has worked with projects of every description, involving objects, buildings, art and music. Currently, he is designing condominiums, hotels, offices, galleries, media labs, furniture, packaging, appliances, drinking glasses, water bottles, vodka bottles and jewelry.
“Life is good – busy, productive and rewarding,” said Karim. “I would like to start focusing on objects for the elderly, and I am involved in a number of humanitarian projects with the aim of making this world a better place for all of us.”
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